It’s been two months since my last visit to the cinema, as there wasn’t anything I especially wanted to see. But now yet another Marvel movie is out, Thor: Ragnarok, and so I took the chance to finally use the free ticket I got after the little incident at the Your Name screening. The first Thor movie was very good, the second was forgettable – so what is this one like? Absolutely awesome, that’s what.
Following a long quest to find the Infinity Stones and an epic battle with a fire-demon, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to his home in Asgard and finally discovers that his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) since their last movie together. Setting out to bring Odin back, Thor and Loki learn that their sister – Hela, the goddess of death (Cate Blanchett) – has returned from her own banishment and now wishes to claim the throne of Asgard for herself. (Two antagonistic brothers who have to team up against their secret, psychopathic, dark-haired, shadow-eyed sister – why does this sound familiar?) The ensuing battle between the siblings ends with Thor and Loki getting stranded on the planet Sakaar, where Thor is taken prisoner by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and forced into a gladiatorial contest with his champion, who – as seen in the trailers – just happens to be the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). With a little help from his allies, Thor must somehow get back to Asgard and stop Hela before she completely takes over.
“Ragnarok” refers to the destruction of the earth and the gods in Norse mythology, so when the title of the third Thor movie was announced, I thought something grim and depressing might be on the way, at least until the trailers came out. But while Thor: Ragnarok is certainly not all sunshine and rainbows – after all, the main villain is the goddess of death, exacting a violent takeover of Asgard – a very high proportion of it is comedy. The overall tone feels far more similar to Guardians of the Galaxy than the previous Thor films; as does the setting, given that most of it takes place on another planet. The recurring characters themselves feel different, a bit less divine and more human than we’ve seen them before; maybe it’s the direction by Taika Waititi, or maybe it’s everything they’ve been through. Almost all of the jokes do work, with the most laugh-out-loud funny ones tending to be the most ridiculous; the film is not exactly self-aware, but it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. Fortunately, the comedy doesn’t get in the way of the story or the action, both of which are thoroughly entertaining.
I enjoyed the dynamic between Thor and Loki in this movie; while Loki isn’t an outright villain any more, he’s still primarily self-serving, and Hemsworth and Hiddleston really do make the characters feel like squabbling siblings forced to work together. Cate Blanchett’s Hela is a memorable villain, with Blanchett clearly enjoying herself in the role, and sometimes bringing back memories of her performance as the wicked stepmother in Cinderella. With the Hulk making his first appearance since Avengers: Age of Ultron, and with better developed powers of speech than in previous movies, we get the chance to see how the green giant thinks, rather than just watching him smash things. And Jeff Goldblum, playing the Grandmaster of Sakaar, is still just as quirky as his familiar performances in the 90s, rambling informally even when giving important proclamations to his subjects. There are also several brilliant cameos which I won’t spoil here.
Thor: Ragnarok is a very strong addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and narrowly beats Wonder Woman as my favourite superhero movie of the year so far. Rating: 4.5/5.